How to make a unicorn cake – without fondant

You may have seen pictures of beautiful unicorn cakes floating around the Internet — the ones with lovely closed eyes and long lashes and swirly golden horns. I wanted to bake myself one for my birthday, but I didn’t want to have to use any fondant (or non-edible items), so I had to come up with my own way to do it. Happily, it turned out really well without too much work. Definitely something you can try at home. All you need is cake, frosting, sprinkles, an ice cream cone, food coloring, and piping bags and tips.

For the cake, I baked a homemade funfetti cake — white cake with rainbow sprinkles (the long kind, not the little dot kind) stirred into the batter. I love this King Arthur Flour white cake recipe with 2/3 cup sprinkles, but if you’re in a coconutty mood, you can try this version. I did three 9-inch round layers, but 6-inch or 8-inch rounds would also work (just keep in mind that you’ll have leftover batter if you use the aforementiond recipe for 6-inch rounds). But, honestly, you can use any flavor of cake you like.

ice cream cone


Once the cake is baked and cooled, you’ll need some frosting, and buttercream is the best option. I have started using some Crisco in my buttercream (maybe 1/3 Crisco and 2/3 butter) to help keep the frosting from melting (it’s really hot here!), but also because it makes the frosting crust a little when it sets. Go ahead and make more frosting than you think you’ll need, and then set a little aside in two extra mixing bowls (maybe a cup per bowl) – you’ll need it for the unicorn’s mane. Go ahead and tint the rest of the frosting pink, or whatever color you want the unicorn to be.

unicorn horn

Now you’ll need to assemble the cake and cover it in a thin layer of the pink frosting (the crumb coat), then stick it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, until that frosting has firmed up. This is particularly crucial if you decided to go for a dark-colored cake, like chocolate, but it’s good to do regardless. If your cake layers are very rounded on top, you may want to level them off a bit before you frost them (I use a bread knife). Not sure how to assemble the cake and do the crumb coat? I have a tutorial here.

After the crumb coat has set, take the cake out of the fridge and cover it in a thicker layer of pink frosting, using a knife or frosting spatula to smooth it as much as possible.

frosted cake

Once the cake is completely frosted and smoothed to your liking, pour some sprinkles onto a paper plate (a sturdy paper towel would probably work, too). Then use a knife to carefully cover the ice cream cone in frosting, and roll it around in the sprinkles, pressing down gently, until it’s totally covered. Place it on top of the cake. (I also piped some extra frosting around the base of the cone to stabilize it, but that’s not necessarily required).

making unicorn cake

Next, tint the reserved icing whatever colors you want the unicorn’s mane and eyes to be — blue and purple in this case. I also had some pink icing left over, so I added some more food coloring gel to make it a darker pink.

unicorn mane

Prepare three piping bags with star tips (I used Wilton #18, and I only had two, so I washed one in between and used it twice), and fill the bags with the three colors of mane frosting. Use the frosting to pipe rosettes/tight spirals around the unicorn’s horn and down one side of the cake (don’t worry about these being perfect — the cake will look cool regardless). I also put one swirl on the front of the cake, where the center of the unicorn’s forehead would be.

unicorn mane

Once the mane is finished, remove the star tip from one of the bags of colored mane frosting (I used blue) and replace it with a regular round tip (I think I used a Wilton #3). Use this to pipe the eyes onto the front of the cake. You may want to practice first on the paper plate, just to make sure you’re using the right pressure.

How to make a unicorn cake with no fondant

Now, stand back and admire your creation! Store the cake in the refrigerator or in a cool room until ready to serve.

How to make a unicorn cake with no fondant

 

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